The North Texas Taco Festival will be soon upon us on April 20, and with more than a dozen different restaurants, taquerias and tortillerias making their way to Deep Ellum, we thought it might be wise to give a brief overview of who some of our attendees are, what they specialize in, and what they’ll be bringing to the festival this year. Today we highlight La Nueva Fresh & Hot and Urban Taco.
You wouldn’t tell from just seeing the nondescript strip mall on Webb Chapel near Bachman Lake, but the shop beneath the La Nueva Fresh & Hot sign turns out D Magazine’s favorite tacos of 2012; their impossibly soft, house-made corn tortillas surely account for some of the recognition.
“The tortillas are very close to the type we had in Mexico, so that’s why a lot of our customers come here – the flavor is just totally different from what you can buy at the big stores,” says Gloria Vazquez Martínez, owner of La Nueva.
But the care and attention that owner Vazquez Martínez puts into every bit of these Zacatecas-style tacos are what put them over the top. From the piquant guisado verde – that’s a meaty stew with loads of tomatillos – to the borrego (braised lamb) La Nueva dishes out tacos not seen in many of Dallas’s more highly popularized taquerias and taco-focused restaurants. Those two tacos – possibly along with the marinated and braised lengua (tongue) – are what festival goers get to look forward to. They’re all comprised of traditional ingredients expertly prepared, and while they may not be familiar, one taste reveals why many in Dallas revere them so highly.
With one location in Uptown and another in Mockingbird Station, Urban Taco’s choice of locations is reflective of their approach to tacos and Mexican-inspired fare in general. Each iteration of the restaurant has a different character, but both are sharp and upscale, with dishes that reflect a commitment to traditional ingredients with a penchant for creativity.
“Our whole approach as a modern Mexican kitchen is to take traditional methods of cooking and combine them with modern approaches,” says owner Markus Pinyero. “I consider everything we do to be very authentic and traditional to my roots, having been born and raised in Mexico city – but doing that in a modern environment. You can see that in some of our recipes.”
With Urban Taco, one of Pinyero’s goals is to make the cuisine of his native Mexico accessible to a Dallas demographic that might otherwise be unfamiliar with some of the dishes he has to offer. Tacos al Pastor – pork soaked in a spicy marinade for 24 hours and cooked on a trompo, or vertical spit – come to mind immediately, but he even takes a different approach with carnitas, a style of slowly cooked pork.
“Some people may consider carnitas to be greasy and lardy, but our carnitas are lard free, we trim the fat – they’re clean,” he says. “But we still prepare them in the traditional way – we slow braise it, we still squeeze the orange juice and we use the same cut – it’s still the same flavor and the same preparation – but it’s not heavy and it’s not fatty.”
The pastor, however, is what Urban Taco will be serving at Saturday’s North Texas Taco Festival – an offering in which Pinyero takes particular pride.
“We start with an achiote rub, which gives it its color and a little depth in the flavor, but we try to give it a citrus flavor with the orange,” he says. “And then we marinate it for 12 hours; the marinade penetrates the pastor through the whole cut.”
Between La Nueva’s guisado verde and Urban Taco’s Pastor offering, the two taquerias are indicative of the dozens of different types and approaches that can be found to tacos at the NTTF; showing up hungry is highly recommended.